Billy O'Neal Gillespie was born to Percy and Mae (Rutherford) Gillespie in Hillsboro, Alabama on Nov. 19, 1938. The house was without power or indoor plumbing until 1950, but it was home to 10 children who were raised plowing fields, milking cows, and picking cotton and fruit to help the family survive. This gave Billy a strong work ethic.
Billy served in the Alabama National Guard combat engineers. In 1957 he moved to Michigan for work, where he became a truck driver. He soon bought a 1957 chevy and spent many years drag racing as a hobby.
Billy married Reta Penning in 1959, and they had two sons, Don and Doug. They divorced in 1963. In 1966 Billy married Alice Goodacre. They raised 2 sons and one daughter, Robert, Daniel, and Susan.
In 1981 Billy opened Billy's Bike Shop which has been part of the SW Michigan bicycling scene ever since. By the 90's, Team Billy was one of the largest bike racing teams in Michigan. Billy never turned a child away. Many local youths learned how to repair and maintain their bikes from Billy. If they couldn't afford to buy the parts they needed, he had them do some chores in the shop to pay for the parts and service.
Billy's love for kids and sports led to several years of coaching youth football, baseball, softball, and basketball. Over the years, many of the kids that he coached visited Billy to reminisce about lessons learned and good times. Billy loved all of you and cherished these moments.
Billy was also an avid hunter. He made many trips to South Alabama, Wyoming, and Colorado to enjoy the great outdoors with his friends and family. He was also a proud supporter of the Barn theatre and became friends with Tom Wopat who is an avid cyclist.
Billy's large heart gave out on August 13, 2023. He is survived by his children Don (Wendy), Doug (Jeanette), Sue (Bobby) Hale, Daniel (Erin), and his "adopted" son Bobby (Shanna) Keller; as well as many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Robert, his parents, and several brothers and sisters.
Billy said that he had a great life, and we agree. Roll tide!
Arrangements entrusted to Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial & Cremation Services 411 East Centre Ave. Portage, MI 49002. Memorial contributions, in memory of Billy, can be sent to the Barn Theatre School for Advanced Theatre Training in Augusta, Michigan or to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. A memorial service will be planned for a later date. To leave an online condolence or to view updates on the memorial service, please visit https://www.langelands.com